The NBA wants to get back to normalcy as soon as possible.
What that means is getting back into the flow of the scheduling format that the league has followed for roughly the last half-century. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA will attempt to accomplish that by planning for a Dec. 22 start date to the 2020-21 season that will contain a shortened 72-game calendar as opposed to the traditional 82-game slate. The season will hopefully end before July ahead of the Summer Olympics in Japan.
Full ESPN story on the NBA's push for a pre-Christmas start and plans for a truncated 2020-2021 schedule: https://t.co/psocV5gQBD
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 23, 2020
The other key date being thrown around is Jan. 18, or Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which many basketball pundits believe could be a more fruitful start date. However, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the NBA could save as much as $500 million by moving opening night to Dec. 22. Among the other proposals being discussed, according to Woj, is the elimination of the All-Star Game and All-Star Weekend, the addition of a play-in tournament–similar to what we saw in the Orlando Bubble between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies, who matched up for one play-in game to decide the final playoff spot in the Western Conference–and a two-week break during the midway point of the season.
Keep in mind, these are all early proposals, as the real date we should all be looking at is Oct. 30. According to Woj, Oct. 30 is the final day that the NBA and the Nationals Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have agreed to discuss any alterations to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. That is the deadline day for the two sides to either terminate the CBA or continue with whatever modifications they have made up until that point. Terminating the CBA entirely is reportedly not out of the equation, either.
Ideally, the NBA would like to return to its usual October-June seasonal calendar as opposed to stretching it into the summer and early stages of the fall. As the league has noticed, ratings were much lower than in the past, something that has widely affected all sports during the global pandemic, namely the NHL and MLB. Even the NFL has seen a dip in ratings. There are quite literally a million factors that go into the overall decline of sports viewership (and player’s kneeling certainly isn’t one), so returning to what set them up for success in the first place is likely the smartest move for the NBA.
If the NBA does elect to tipoff the 2020-21 season on Dec. 22, that sets up some immediate complications. For starters, the NBA Draft is now under four weeks away and free agency still does not have an official start date. Can 30 NBA teams be expected to complete an entire offseason’s worth of work in roughly two months? The Finals aren’t even a month old yet.
Commissioner Adam Silver’s original idea of starting the season with fans in the arena has seemingly dissipated. But if $500 million is on the line, it would be hard to believe the NBA is going to miss out on that money. If they have to start a few weeks early, they absolutely will. Woj said that Silver previously stated he would give the player’s union an eight-week notice before the formal start of the season, which would put that exact date at Oct. 27. However, Oct. 30 still remains the day we should hear more confirmed news regarding the upcoming season.